MGP Ingredients- The Distillery Prohibition Did Not Destroy

MGP Ingredients- The Distillery Prohibition Did Not Destroy

If you’re tasting a lot of whiskeys and considering where they come from, you’ll have already become familiar with MGP (Midwest Grain Products) Ingredients.  In most cases, you’ll have read an article about how hundreds of whiskeys on the market today are, in fact, distilled at MGP and that many of those companies are not honest about their whiskeys’ provenance.  In some cases, people cannot believe that a company that sells extracted starches, textured plant proteins and cleaning products could also make such great whiskey. I’m here to tell you, this is as American as apple pie. (Apple pie is originally European, too, by the way…We imported its recipe the same way we imported our distilling traditions.) To be clear, MGP Ingredients (also referred to by...

Potential in Pennsylvania

Potential in Pennsylvania

Picture a seed in your mind. It’s small. Even sitting in the palm of your hand, it doesn’t seem like much. But for all its unassuming nature, make no mistake, that seed holds powerful potential. Grind it, smash it, plant it, grow it, soak it. The seed is a food. It can multiply itself when planted and grown. A seed can be ground into flour. Its versatility has literally changed mankind from hunter-gatherer to farmer through its cultivation. In our modern times, its importance gets lost amongst high tech gadgets, ultra-capacity food distribution and light speed communication. Just for a moment, I want to reset and refocus our attention back on the humble seed and its unlimited potential. It is not just a food stuff, it is an economic powerhouse. The creation of...

The Cost of Prohibition for Pennsylvania

The Cost of Prohibition for Pennsylvania

While it is slowly becoming common knowledge that Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American whiskey, I’m often asked, ”Why is Pennsylvania only now showing signs of distilling life again?” The truth lies in the duration and aftermath of Prohibition. In 1899, there were close to 965 distilleries in the country with about 400 of them located in Pa. By 1914, that number had been reduced to 434, and by Prohibition, there were only 27-33 left. (ref.- http://www.bottlebooks.com/american%20medicinal%20spirits%20company/american_medicinal_spirits_compa.htm) Consolidation and the shuttering of so many distilleries left the distilling industry on the brink of collapse. The reality was that the political will and capital that remained in support of distilling would begin...

Booz and Booze

Booz and Booze

  Where does the word “booze” come from?  I’ll begin by telling the truth, but let me tell you a Philadelphia story, too. Let me start by saying that it is an adaption of the middle Dutch word “būsen”, which means “to drink to excess”, into the middle English word “bousen” in the 14th century.  The use of the English word “booze” didn’t appear in writing until the 17th century.  There are other options for the possible origins of the word from Germany, but the Dutch seems the most likely.  Though it is often dismissed, as a Philadelphian, I cannot dismiss the possibility that E.G. Booz had something to do with the term being used more often… Edmund G.Booz was born in 1824 in Bristol, PA in Bucks County.  He was a very successful liquor merchant that...

Stoll & Wolfe

Stoll & Wolfe

There are many new distilleries popping up in Pennsylvania, but none carry the Pennsylvanian distillery torch quite like Stoll and Wolfe. You see the name Stoll and Wolfe, which is named after founders of the brand, Dick Stoll and Erik Wolfe, was originally named Bomberger’s as a tribute to the old Bomberger’s Distillery (known to most as Michter’s). They planned to reopen the distillery in Lititz, PA where Mr. Dick Stoll was distiller in the 70’s. Mr. Stoll is now famous for being the man behind the famous A.H.Hirsch Reserve 16 year old bourbon that every collector longs to own. The attempt to resurrect the Bomberger’s brand was not to be, however. Michter’s brand name was already owned by Chatham Imports in Kentucky. A lawsuit kept the brand name in limbo for a...

New Distilleries in Pennsylvania

New Distilleries in Pennsylvania

The American Whiskey Convention in Philadelphia was a bit of an inspiration for me to spend a bit more time discussing the boom in whiskey distilling here in Pennsylvania.  The “White Dog Row” element of the Convention showed off 11 new make spirits from 8 different local distilleries.  White whiskey is the backbone of any distillery.  It shows the character of the grain, the flavors contributed by the yeasts and the potential of the spirit.  No amount of aging can fix a bad white whiskey foundation.  I think it was important to highlight the potential of our local distilleries through their white dogs.  It also gave a chance for the distillers and representatives from those distilleries to speak directly to the public about their work and their visions for the...

What is a Cooper?

What is a Cooper?

What is a cooper?  Seems there are many children with the name Cooper, but not a whole lot of actual coopers out there. Traditionally, a cooper was the man that made barrels, or staved vessels.  A stave is a length of wood, usually cut from the center of a tree trunk, that is cut into a plank (think 1×3”-1×4” wood planks at Home Depot).  Anything a cooper produces is referred to as cooperage.  The facility where casks or barrels are made is also called a cooperage.  The cooperage produced necessary storage vessels for their communities and often the cooper was needed aboard ships and by the military. A “tight” cooper, historically, made barrels that held liquid.  White oak is the only wood that successfully holds water and other liquids due to the...

Lets Hear It For The Maltsters!

Lets Hear It For The Maltsters!

One of the most amazing steps in making whiskey is the one of the first steps and is often overlooked in its importance. The first step is farming the grain, of course.  This is incredibly important in determining the quality of the grain.  So much is dependent upon the growing season, weather, rainfall and soil quality.  One harvest will differ from the next.   After the harvest, it’s the maltsters turn… Many grains are used in making whiskey, especially now that so much experimentation is being done to create craft whiskeys.  They can all be malted, but no grain has the diastatic power (enzyme power to convert starches to sugars) that barley has.  It is called the “workhorse grain” because it is often added to a mash in small amounts just for its wonderful...